There was a pause. “Do you think I don’t know Sebastian comes over every night?”
I covered my eyes with my hand.
“You two try to be quiet, but I can hear you talking sometimes. I haven’t said anything because I think you need your friends right now, especially when I haven’t seen much of Dary or Abbi,” she explained. “And because I trust Sebastian.”
I wanted to hide under the bed. “I trust you to make smart choices when it comes to Sebastian,” she added, and I wasn’t sure I believed her, because, truth be told, I obviously sucked at making good choices. “But I heard some of your conversation last night.”
“Lena,” she said with a sigh. “The boy has cared about you from the first day he came over here, asking if you wanted to ride bikes.”
“I know, Mom.” I lowered my hand to the bed and looked at her. I’d done a lot of thinking as I lay in bed all morning. “I think... I think he does love me,” I whispered, my lip trembling. “Like really love me, and I...I don’t know if I’m ready for that now. I mean, I am. I’ve been waiting forever for him...but it all feels wrong now.”
“Honey.” Her breath was shaky as she leaned over me, clasping my hand. “You’re going through a lot right now. And I know it’s not just Sebastian. Coach Rogers called me this morning. He told me you quit the team.”
“It just...wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore.”
“Is that the same way you feel about Sebastian?”
“It’s not that. Not really. I just...don’t deserve him...deserve this.”
“Why would you say that?”
I shifted my gaze back to the map before looking back to her. “You know why.”
Her eyes widened and shimmered with tears. “Oh, baby, don’t say that. You do deserve happiness and a future and everything you’ve ever wanted. That one night is not going to define your whole life.”
“But it defined Megan’s and the others’,” I argued. “When people talk about Cody, it will always be overshadowed by what he did. The same with Chris and with Phillip.” And it would be the same about me, if everyone knew.
Mom squeezed my hand, and I could tell by the stricken look on her face that she had no idea what to say to me.
I pulled my hand free and sat up a little. “I just want to go back to that night and do things differently. I was being so stupid, obsessing over such stupid things. Everything I worried about before seems so pointless now.”
“Baby, nothing you worried about before was pointless.” Mom squeezed my hand again. “You’re just looking at things differently now.”
* * *
On Wednesday morning, Sebastian drove me to school. The ride was silent and awkward, and I couldn’t do it again. I had to try to catch a ride with Dary after school, and tomorrow, I decided, I needed to do it myself. Needed to get behind the wheel of my own car.
To drive myself.
To take care of myself.
But as I walked from my locker to the administrative offices, I wasn’t thinking about Sebastian or our fight or what Mom had admitted to. I knew what was expected from me in the next thirty minutes.
I was going to have to really talk today. I had to, because I needed to get it off my chest. I needed to say something, and I didn’t know if it would change anything or make it better or worse when it was all said and done, but I just needed to tell someone in my own words.
My hands were shaking when I walked into the tiny room. The stupid posters were a blur. Dr. Perry was at the table waiting for me, a new coffee mug in front of him, but I was too nervous to read the words. I just knew it was new because it was orange, unlike the others.
“Good morning, Lena.” He sat back in his chair, smiling as I shuffled toward the chair across from him. “I learned you weren’t at school yesterday. Are you not feeling well?”
After dropping my bag on the floor, I sat in the chair, stiff as a board. “It was just a bad day.”
“Care to elaborate?”
My first instinct was to say no, but that wasn’t what these sessions were about. So I told him what had happened with Sebastian. Not all the details because, seriously, that would be way too awkward. When I finished, I already felt exhausted and emotionally spent, and I’d barely even really started.
“Do you think Sebastian is wrong for wanting to move on?”
“Yes. No.” I wanted to bang my head off the table. “I don’t know. I mean, no. He’s not wrong. He gets to move on. He gets to—”
“And you don’t get to move on?” Dr. Perry interrupted.
Shaking my head, I opened my mouth but struggled to say what he already knew. “Why should I get to move on?”
He placed his mug down. “Why shouldn’t you?”
“Because it’s my fault,” I said, feeling sick.
“I think what we really need to do right now is for you to walk me through that night,” he said gently. “Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes,” I said. “I need to do this. To talk about that night.” Tears filled my eyes and my heart pounded wildly in my chest. “I knew Cody was drunk and I...I could’ve stopped him. I wasn’t drunk.”
And then I walked him through everything that had happened that night.
* * *
I found myself standing in the driveway with Megan. I was done with the party. I had a headache stabbing me behind the eyes, and the music and shouting and laughter weren’t helping.
I just wanted to go home, and I was so not looking for Sebastian to tell him so. Not after our talk/argument and the fact I hadn’t seen him since Skylar showed up. I really didn’t need to walk up on them in the middle of them practically eating each other’s faces.
A heavy weight settled in my stomach.
God, I wished I hadn’t said anything to Sebastian. Now tomorrow was going to be different, and there was no going back. No pretending that everything was the same.
I really wanted to go home.
“Where’s Chris?” I asked.
Leaning heavily into me, Megan nodded to where Cody was bent over, one arm hanging on an open car door as he talked to someone. Her cousin Chris was standing beside him. “One of them is driving us home,” she said slowly. “That’s all I know.”
Cody was leaving with us?
“I’m a bit trashed,” Megan slurred after a moment.
“Really?” I replied drily, almost wishing I were in her shoes that moment.
“Just a little.” Sighing, she wrapped her arm around my waist. “I love you, Lena.”
I grinned as I pushed my damp hair out of my face. “I love you, too.”
“Do you love me enough to carry me inside my house, pass my mom and tuck me into bed?” she asked, pushing away from me. She was momentarily distracted by the hum of crickets. “After we stop at McDonald’s so I can get chicken nuggets?”
I laughed. “Maybe I can help you get nuggets, but not sure how to get you past your mom.”
She giggled as she looked around, swaying slightly. “Wait...did you tell Sebastian you were leaving?”
“I have no idea where he is,” I said, watching Cody and Chris head toward us.
She clapped her hands together, rocking backward. “Let’s go find him.”
“Find who?” Cody asked.
“Sebastian!” shrieked Megan, and I winced.
Cody dropped his arm over my shoulders. “Pretty sure he’s with Skylar. Probably in the pool house.” He squeezed me. “Thought I saw them walking into there.”
The hole in my chest tripled. Cody could’ve been making it up, but it could also be true, and it...it also didn’t matter.
Megan cringed. “All righty, then, let’s not find him.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said, stepping from under Cody’s arm.
Yawning, Chris turned around and tossed his keys at Cody. They smacked off his chest and hit the ground. “Can you drive?” he asked. “I’m whipped.”
“Yeah. Sure.” Bending over, Cody swiped up the keys. “Next time give me a warning.”